Part I-Categorization

We are born with the abilities to differentiate what is different from ourselves, and what is different from others. However, the values that are bestowed upon these differences are taught, not innate.

As young children, our perception of life is different.  Our culture has not yet taught us the norms and beliefs of society. As a result, everything is different. We observe these differences and are taught by our parents in the beginning how to categorized those differences as we age. When times, our parents pair up with our teachers to further our education. We learn how to distinguish from living organisms from non-living organisms, food from non-food. By the time a child reaches school age, children are taught that they are people and cows and dog are anime. With a child’s mind, I entered my first day at school with these abilities. I was able to recognize that everyone was different in their own way. The differences did not matter, because we all had them. There were no one differences that was greater than another. 20140223_174948

With time, we  learned to expand our broad categorizations such as animals and plants to  smaller groupings such as cats and bushes. These subdivisions found its way to human. All of my classmates fit into one category, the white category, I was left with my own category as the Asian student. Outside of the class, I encounter other categories such as African-Americans. But as for myself, I was rare. Only in Chinese themed restaurant, were there people like me. But by then, I did not feel like I belonged with them. My culture and race separated then. I was white but people, my classmates, saw me as Asian. The realization of being physically Asian and the disconnection from my culture did not bother me however. As I said before, I rarely saw others like me and my appearance was rarely mentioned since it was evident that I was Asian on some level and my world was confined into a small town where everyone knew each other. Combined with my families indifference to my ethnicity, I grow up with the mindset of indifference.

With this in mind, my differences were pointed out occasionally. The first time someone ever pointed out a difference to me was around the second grade. During art class, there was some down time and one of the boys at my table pointed out my narrow eyes. He thought they were strange and some of the other kids did too. I did not know how to feel about it. My eyes, I thought, were the same any other eyes; they did the something as everyone else. I gave the boy a mean look and retorted to his comment. Our commotion must have alerted the teacher, because she made her way to the back room where we all sat. One of the girls close to my vicinity told the teacher what was going on when she asked. She told us that we are all different and that even though he may think my eyes were strange, I may think he was strange. Also, she told us that she liked my eyes. After that, the conversation dropped and we went back to our art projects. The boy who made the comment about my eyes never mentioned it again. It took me a few days to forgive him but eventually I did and that was that.

To be continued…….

Time Changes All

A question that I am frequently asked once my origin is revealed is whether or not I would like to go back to China. Now more than ever, I think about what this question really means to me. The person in the mirror never fails to remind me of who I am and where I came from.

Had you asked if I wanted to go back to China as a little kid, I would have said no. I had no reason to go back – no real connection to my homeland. To me it was just a place that conceived me, nothing else. My home was with my adopted mother and her family. Any real questions about my past that I was asked about was given a quick answer and never touched on again. My mother and grandmothers testimony satisfied me whenever I asked. At the time, the friends that I surrounded myself with encouraged me to not worry about my past. I believed at the time that God had a plan for me, and that everything was for a reason. Why would I dwell on the unchangeable past, if the future is what matters?

That way of thinking changed as I grew. As I slowly open my mind to those closed off questions, I realized I want to know. The world of adoption started to open up to me, and I discovered others like me. With other adoptees and their stories coming out of the wood work, I looked to my past and saw nothing. Rifling through some old files, I found some relevant documents about my adoption. With some persistence and help from my grandmother, I located my original adoption papers. I discovered the original location I was found at, what orphanage I came from, and much, much more.

Ma’Anshan Orphanage, 1996

Ma’Anshan Orphanage, 1996

Soon enough, I saw and read documentaries about other adoptees going back to the homeland. They talked about how the trip affected them as well as how they felt. One particular documentary even included an adoptee finding here biological parents! Watching and reading these stories encouraged me to look into my own past. Now I  know what the next step is for me in my adoption journey. I want to go back to China. For the first time in my life, I want to go.

I just hope it is not too late to unveil my hidden pass and learn more about how I came into existence. Time is a dangerous enemy for any adopted individual that wants to learn about their past. With more time passing, records can be destroyed from fires or natural disasters. While renovation creates a better environment for orphanages, it also allows for documentation to be lost forever. I recently learned that my orphanage, Ma’Anshan, was moved to a new location and updated by 2013. The likely hood of me even seeing my original roots is changing.

Orphanage side

Even if I do not see my original orphanage, I still want to see the homeland. Part of me hopes, if I dare to hope, that I get to meet the woman that cared for me in the orphanage. In one of the documents I uncovered, a caretakers name is revealed. Maybe one day, with a lot of luck, I can find this person and unveil some truth to my past.

The One Legged Woman: First Night

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A photo of my mother, my grandmother, and me at four years old.

For many older adoptive individuals, the transition from one life to another is not easy. It potentially could be scary for both the adoptive parents and adopted child(s) for the first few nights in their new home. I mention both because it is not only a new environment for the adoptee but for the parents as well.  My own experience was that of one that I will never forget.

Back in the states, when the time came to separate our small group consisting of my grandmother, mother and myself, I cried. I did not want to be separated from the familiar face of my grandmother. She was the closest resemblance of home that I had left with her white hair and slightly wrinkled face. But the time had come, my first night with my new mother had arrived. Seeing my grandmother leave the vehicle without me devastated me at first . As the car ride sped on I eventually stopped crying and watched the scenery race past us. Once we arrived at the new home, the woman, not yet my mother to me, showed me around the house, eventually leading us to what would be my new room. The room stayed vacant for some nights even though it waited for me.

As night approached, the women took off her leg, as she had once done before, but there was no one else to cling on to this time. It hurt her to see the expression on my face, but I did not want to see it.  I became fearful again. She sat in a chair with wheels which I had never seen before. I ran to the small bathroom and hid from my new mother. She knew my location and followed me. As soon as I saw her, I grabbed a porcelain decorative flower basket and threw it at her foot. I reached up for another flower ornament to through at her when she suddenly started to cry. I did not understand what was going on, but I knew for some reason that I would not be harmed. I even started to feel sad for the lady as she continued to weep. Eventually I was able to walk up to her and hand her the porcelain ornament. In a few months, I would try to fix those same ornaments with glue.

China DollIt was late and bed time had arrived. I did not want to sleep in the room alone, so I followed the women. She allowed me to follow her into her room. The lady had a dog, and I was scared of it. At fist she placed the small dog, a shih tzu, onto the bed. But I cringed away and whined as that was my only way of communication to her. I let her know my discomfort towards the dog, so she place the dog on the floor. My mother was sad again, but my fear won out this time, no dog on the bed tonight. The following night, this would change when I learned that the dog was nice.

My grandmother always tells me of how my mother called her crying that night, because she did not understand why I had not bonded with her and what she needed to do. My grandmother understood that the separation was vital to both my mother and me. To have given into my crying would have sabotaged my mother’s efforts in having a child of her own. There are still times that I remember those moments, and I know it was not my fault, but I can not help feeling bad for what I did. It is something that I regret even to this day. I would never want to hurt my mother but when fear hits you and you do not understand, somethings you hurt those nearest to you. 

The best advice I can give to try to alleviate any kind of stress during the first night requires parents of the adoptee to do some homework. Communication is key; take the time to learn their language. I know if my mother had learned some Chinese, that I might not have reacted as I did towards her. Also, do not give in. My mother did not give in as she wanted to and as a result we had a close bond.

Uncomfortable New Year

January 31 was the official date for the Chinese New Year as most of you may know. Normally I don’t celebrate any Chinese holidays or events. However this year, a friend of mine mentioned celebrating the Chinese New Year together, so we rallied a group of our friends together and headed out. What kind of adopted Chinese girl would I be if I did not have one traditional Chinese outfit in my closet? Since I was going to celebrate the Chinese New Year this year,  I decided to wear it. My grandmother convinced me to get it when we where shopping in an Asian themed store. It’s a high collar shimmery red color top with gold flowers imprinted all over the shirt. With black pants to complete the wardrobe, I reminded myself of a Chinese resident worker.

Red Outfit

Red Outfit

Surprisingly enough, I don’t really have any troubles wearing  the outfit among strangers. It is only when I encounter other Asians, especially Chinese folks, that I shy away from. It makes me feel strange when they look at me opposed to other glances. This notion came from when I was younger and has only grown more prominent as I get older. Whenever they ask if I am Chinese, I reply yes. Part of me is always afraid that they are going to assume that I can speak Chinese and then start talking to me in mandarin. To avoid this, I usually follow-up with, “I cannot speak it”. Whenever I look at their face, it almost never fails that I can see the disappointment in their eyes and their tone changes. In that moment, they realize that I am not one of them, but an outsider that merely tricked them. I get those feelings all the time when I am around other Chinese people regardless of what I am wearing. I don’t understand why, but it feels as if they are always judging me.

Of course it happened when my friends and I met up at a Chinese restaurant. I went through the day feeling fine and had no problems explaining to others why I dressed up the way I was. It was when I stepped through the doors and saw those familiar eyes that I recoiled. Out of all the waiters there, we got the Asian man. He asked me if I was Chinese and I gave him the usual speech, watched his all-too-familiar reaction, and was ready to leave. Despite how I felt, I couldn’t leave as I was there with friends, and I knew that I could power through the situation. I have endured it before, and I am sure to endure it again. Besides the uncomfortable feelings I had with the waiter, the night went well.

It is always nice to have friends around; they help you get through so much. Most of the time, they don’t even know it.

Disconnected Language

Originally, my mother intended to take Chinese classes in order to converse with me when I arrived. She hoped that by doing so, that she would keep that part of my heritage alive. This proved to be more difficult than she planned, and resulted in her failure in the end. I understand, however, why her attempt failed. She was, essentially, learning two different languages simultaneously: written Chinese and spoken Chinese. Practice is a necessity when learning another language, but when you live in a rural area with only a limited amount of individuals even capable of speaking the language, it makes practicing nearly impossible. My mother also did not have the luxury of the internet or the resources of a college when she attempted to learn it. All of these factors resulted in her failure. With all of that said, I wished she had continued in her endeavors.

A few years after I arrived in the states, my mother asked me if I wanted to learn my language. I replied with no. I did not grasp the implications of what I had just turned down. In my first year of college, I attempted to learn Chinese for the first time. I quickly found out how difficult it was. After two semesters of the class, I set aside Chinese to pursue my career.  I could kick myself for not taking that opportunity when I was younger and wished my mother would have encourage me more. The distance between myself and China is that much more prominent.

Eventually, I want to pick up my studies in Chinese again. I want to become fluent and not be afraid of others asking me if I can speak the language. When I look at another Chinese person in the face, I want to be able to feel a connection with them and not a distance. If I ever have children, I will encourage them to learn Chinese at a young age. I do not want them to have that disconnection that I had all because of communicate.

Frozen Fan

I am not much of a Disney movie watcher, but my grandmother likes children’s movies. She says other movies are too violent, which she is partly right. Recently I have watched a movie called Frozen. It has got to be one of my favor movies by Disney and has captured my attention! The only decent movie that has been released recently by Disney studio is Wreck-It Ralph, which only appeals to a certain audience. However, Walle is the last Disney and Pixar film that I felt such a strong affinity for. If you have not seen Frozen, then I strongly recommend you do so.

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DVD and Blue-ray

Frozen is about two adolescent women, Anna and Elsa. In the movie the two characters discover who they are and the powers that lies within themselves. It has the standard witty story lines that Disney’s movies are known for, but it takes it to a more defined level. What I like about this movie is that it is simple enough for children to watch but intelligent enough for older audiences. Frozen leads you on, makes you comfortable with your ideas, and then twists them. Not only did the story plot enraptured me, but the music is really well done. Songs like Let it Go and Do You Want To Build a Snow Man are still in my head, I can not get enough of the music. With these good qualities in one movie, it is no wonder that Frozen received Best Animated Feature from the 2014 Golding Globes Awards [USATODAY]

I have read and watched some reviews on Frozen that suggest that Frozen is just a copy of Tangled. However, I think Tangled is completely different. It is true that they both have female protagonist that are discovering themselves, but Frozen encompasses a larger view point besides the stander prince charming, falling in love, and living happily ever after. Seeing Tangled for the first time, I noticed no real difference from what Disney has pumped out before. When Frozen came out and audiences discussed how Frozen was a copy of Tangled, I watched the movie for a second time. Maybe I missed something the first time I watched it. The only real similarities I could find was in the artistry, but that is due to the fact that the same people who worked on Frozen are also the same people who worked on Tangled. I did not find Tangled as captivating, even with the second viewing. There was only one seen (spoiler alter, don’t read the next line if you don’t want anything spoiled) that I liked. It involved the scene where the main character is trying to save the male hero from dying, but he cut her hair before she could. Some of the scenes were pretty, but besides that it did not keep my attention like Frozen did. Even though I do not have a sister, which Frozen focused on, I was still able to relate to the characters.

The total amount of viewings I have done for this movie alone accumulates to three times in the theaters, a new personal record for me. For Christmas, one of the gifts I received was a pre-ordered copy of Frozen in DVD and Blue-ray pack. You can imagine how elated I was. March 14, 2014 is the anticipated release date, and I can not wait.

Abandoned by One, Taken by Another

my adaption photo

Adoption Photo

I do not know much about my past except what I was told and what I have found. According to my mother, I was found by a police station and taken to the local orphanage. All the children in the orphanage inherited a surname that coincided with the orphanage; the name that I received was Ma Shen after the Ma’Anshan orphanage I resided in. I honestly recollected very little from my stay at the orphanage. My real memories do not start till I meet my adoptive mother and grandmother on June 16, 1996 in a hotel room. Originally on the itinerary, my mother and the other expecting parents planned to pick up their child at the orphanage. However, that changed do to a breach of information involving United States media and some other orphanage a few weeks prior to the expected adoption date. In the first encounter, I received my first ever gift: a cabbage patch kids doll and a new outfit. Out of all the children being adopted that day, I was the only child capable of walking without assistance.

The first person that I bonded to was not my mother, as she hoped it would be, but my grandmother. This would not become more evident than when my first night in my new home arrived. My mother, grandmother, and I traveled together for more than two weeks in a group. During those two weeks, my new family recognized that I had a bias to my grandmother. In order to try to resolve this issue that would become a problem in the future, my grandmother would leave my mother and I together. These futile attempts of bonding did not stop my tears when the time came for my grandmother’s departure.

I cried all the way to my new home. That night was a challenging and difficult night for my mother and me, but both of us got through it. After that night I slowly became acclimated to my new surroundings. Learning the English language presented no challenge for me as I easily picked it up in my first week. Once a week had passed, my mother and I visited my grandmother again. My mother would always need some guidance from her mother on how to raise me, but she steadily improved.